By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — The center of town will soon get an overhaul.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation announced last week that it awarded Plaistow a $238,438 Safe Routes to School Grant. The grant will fund sidewalk and other improvements, making it safer for students to walk and bike to Pollard School at 120 Main St.
“This is a very exciting grant for us,” town planner Leigh Komornick said. “It’s a perfect situation for the town and the school district because it definitely has all the proper criteria for a school which could increase the number of kids walking and biking.”
John Corrigan, the coordinator of the Safe Routes to School Grant for NHDOT, said Plaistow was one of 12 communities in the state receiving the grant.
“This grant was originally intended to be competitive,” he said. “But it was determined that all who applied would receive the grant.”
Corrigan said Plaistow will receive the full amount of money they requested. The town will also add $100,000 of its own funds to complete the project.
The improvements include adding 750 feet of sidewalks and new crosswalks to the area. The project will also eliminate the slip lane at the intersection between Main and Elm streets.
“It’s in desperate need for realignment,” Komornick said. “Right now pretty much everyone agrees that it’s not conducive for kids.”
Corrigan said the town had originally inquired about making improvements to Timberlane Regional Middle School, but he advised officials to focus on Pollard School.
“That would have been a much more difficult project,” he said. “But, I realized that the Pollard School was a much better location because it is in the village center. There are already existing sidewalk networks there and we can improve traffic at the same time.”
Corrigan said the town will not receive money upfront for the project, but instead will be reimbursed after spending the money.
The grant will also include $10,732 of safety improvements for the Pollard School students, including helmets, bicycle racks and traffic cones.
“We want to improve the visibility of the school zone,” Komornick said. “There will be electronic signs to notify drivers when they enter the school zone.”
Corrigan said he expected the work to be completed by 2015.
“The preliminary work will begin between now and this summer and then they will go out to bid the following season,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan said this is the last time Safe Routes for School grants which will be offered. In the future, the grant will be renamed and only have an 80 percent reimbursement rate.